Legal Teams in the Blended Workplace: The People Side of Bringing People Back to Work

May 25, 2021

Mike Lindstrum Vice President Consulting Services at Mainstay More than a year has passed since the onset of the pandemic, and many organizations have found success with the blended office model. Workplace norms are redefined weekly, with as many as 60% of workers reporting that they want to remain in a remote position according to Gartner. […]
Mike Lindstrum

Vice President Consulting Services at Mainstay

More than a year has passed since the onset of the pandemic, and many organizations have found success with the blended office model. Workplace norms are redefined weekly, with as many as 60% of workers reporting that they want to remain in a remote position according to Gartner. Employee habits and expectations are changing too.

Preparing for long-term changes in the workplace often requires us to manage technology use first, laying the groundwork for remote access. But it’s critical not to develop a blind spot by ignoring the challenges that arise from the people’s perspective. For our legal teams, it’s doubly important to manage post-pandemic changes by turning to people first.

Classifying Employees and Setting the Tone 

As more workers trade in-office positions for hybrid or remote offices, the line separating traditional employees from contractors has also begun to blur. There has been an uptick in recent legislation concerning how much legal responsibility employers have towards regular employees versus their flex-work counterparts. Legal professionals will have to stand at the fore when disputes inevitably arise concerning job classifications and pay rates.

Legal teams can take up leadership roles in an organization as it adjusts to hiring more contract labor. It’s critical to keep in mind the importance of drafting transparent policies that everyone, both full-timers and freelancers alike, can agree on.

Although managers, employees, and contractors are all navigating the post-pandemic workplace in their own way, legal experts are uniquely equipped to support workers with complex issues surrounding job classifications. New federal and business protocols change regulations frequently.

It is the role of legal teams to make sure everyone understands, for instance:

  • How their taxes will change,
  • Who’s responsible for calculating withholdings, 
    • Payment structure for contractors,
    • Salary adjustments for out-of-state work,
  • Solve Problems by Working in Tandem with HR and IT

Establishing a positive first impression among employees and contractors from the legal perspective is key. Next, we will have to prepare the groundwork for managing the inevitable disputes and grievances that follow from remote work. How should we do this? One way is to bring in help from other functional groups like HR and IT.

Working hand-in-hand with other teams is an effective way to establish an open communication channel between managers and workers. Legal groups can work with IT to send policy updates to employees the instant there’s a change or new standard. HR can bring in their skillset to provide added counseling services if an employee feels unfairly treated.

Joining forces with several functional groups is a surefire way to spread the word that employee voices matter and the new post-pandemic infrastructure is there to listen.

Clarify Workplace Roles

Finally, legal teams have the opportunity today to reestablish clear and personalized standards and practices for their staff. If our goal is to communicate where and why legal guidelines have changed in the blended workplace, then how we share those changes is crucial.

For example, remote workers will want to know how their workplace safety is guaranteed. What are the employers’ obligations, then?

How can we display federal and state labor laws—and any new changes—online for all to see? Contracts also need to be easy to access, understand, and sign. HR can help here.

What about dispute resolution? No doubt many remote and flex workers will have questions and confusion. What can legal pros do to publicize easy ways to contact legal help?

The questions that we will have to face as workplaces emerge from pandemic conditions remain up for debate. However, it’s clear that legal teams can take the lead in communicating vital company and federal policy changes to employees. Managing change from the people’s perspective is the first step towards inviting employees back to work confidently.

If your Legal team is interested in more solutions to change and communicate to the people-side of your organization, we can help. At Mainstay, our Prosci-certified change management professionals are uniquely qualified to help address post-pandemic changes in workplaces. We can identify a change management solution to fit your company’s new initiatives and policies—we might even find a solution to an issue you didn’t know you had! Contact us at sales@mainstaycompany.com

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